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Daily Camera: Personal Stories Fuel BCH Mental Health Initiative

Daily Camera: Personal Stories Fuel BCH Mental Health Initiative

The front page of the Daily Camera Sunday features BCH's mental health initiative to expand treatment and support for people with mental illness in our community.

The article describes the BCH Foundation's commitment to supporting patients with mental illness through the new Della Cava Family Medical Pavilion and our innovative Mental Health Endowment.

BCH Foundation President Grant Besser highlights how BCH is stepping up to serve the mental health needs of our local community at a time of growing need for more resources, while other health systems are stepping back from offering these services.

The article also features three local business leaders in our community who have been personally impacted by mental illness.

Learn more and get involved in our campaign at

Read below for the full Daily Camera article:

Personal stories fuel Boulder Community Health mental health initiative

$45M Della Cava Family Medical Pavilion to fill gap in needed care

By Charlie Brennan

Staff Writer
Boulder Daily Camera

Posted:Sat Mar 24 10:00:00 MDT 2018

With mental health issues in society increasingly a front-burner issue, advanced by many as a factor contributing to gun violence in the United States and host of other ills, construction is underway at Boulder Community Health for an expansive inpatient facility devoted to that area of care.

To be known as the Della Cava Family Medical Pavilion, the 70,000-square-foot center at the Foothills Campus will house inpatient behavioral health, outpatient behavioral health including integrative care, electroconvulsive therapy, an associated neurologists clinic and other clinic space — as well as a new garage with 400 spaces for patient and employee parking.

The $45 million complex will substantially buttress the options for mental health care at BCH, which already operates the only acute care hospital in Boulder County providing inpatient mental health services. Construction on the new pavilion is expected to be completed by the end of the year, although a move-in date in early 2019 has not yet been established.

Grant Besser, president of the BCH Foundation, sees mental health as a "socio-economic-agnostic" health issue, one from which no one is immune.

"And the reality is that there is not a parity in care that exists with mental health, when you look across Boulder County. A lot of our counterparts have gotten out of the business," Besser said.

"BCH has an opportunity to be nimble and responsive in meeting the needs of the community. And that's where this investment has come from."

Key contributors to the pavilion include families who have been touched by the very issues that its services will be aimed at treating.

'Unfortunate journey'

One such contributor is Boulder resident John Winsor, executive in residence at the Harvard Business School, as well as founder and CEO of the Open Assembly consulting company. He lost his wife of some 32 years last July when Bridget Winsor ended a yearslong battle with bipolar illness by going to Gunsport in Boulder, buying a handgun, taking it home and shooting herself in the family basement.

"Bridget was with a doctor locally who misprescribed her for three or four months, and that exacerbated her mania," Winsor said Thursday. "It was a very unfortunate journey and it ended July 25.

"I'm not blaming anybody. None of us knew what was going on, to begin with. She was so out of control — eight facilities over two years. And there were legal issues because of some substance abuse issues, because of the mental illness."

Bridget Winsor, an accomplished triathlete, founder of the Collage Children's Museum and known for tireless service to many community-based organizations, was remembered through establishment of the Bridget Winsor Memorial Fund, with the help of the Boulder Community Health Foundation.

It is funneling $100,000 toward the BCH Mental Health Endowment, which, once it meets its $2 million goal — it is three-quarters of the way there — will provide at least $100,000 in grants annually to community members in need. Grants will range from $100 to thousands of dollars across four core areas, including transitions (such as temporary housing or transportation), treatment, health and well-being, and education.

The $2 million Mental Health Endowment is part of a larger $8 million fundraising goal, toward which Besser said about $5.7 million has now been contributed by more than 400 community members.

Winsor wants to see far more thought given at the community level to the struggles of those battling mental illness.

"It doesn't matter if people contribute money or if people contribute time or emotional support," he said. "My hope would be that the next time they pass a homeless person, and the person is yelling or something, they have a little more empathy, and think: that could be my wife, my son, my mom or my dad.

"We are all human beings and we need to support each other. Not everybody has the means to support BCH's effort financially, but emotional health comes from being able to support one another."

'What can we do?'

Longtime Boulder developer Lou Della Cava and wife Melodie will see their family name on the pavilion in return for the $2 million they have contributed to the BCH Foundation's mental health initiative. As with the Winsor family, there is a personal motivation for them.

More than 15 years ago, Melodie Della Cava began developing serious, chronic migraine headaches. BCH did not have a program to address her problem, Lou Della Cava said, resulting in their having to consult specialists in Denver and at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

Lou Della Cava has served over the years both on the BCH Foundation Board and BCH Board of Directors.

As he accompanied his wife on her visits to specialists, he said, "It began to appear to me as a member of that board, 'Hey, wait a minute, my wife Melodie is not the only one suffering from this chronic pain. She's not the only one suffering from this issue.'"

He sees a direct link between afflictions such as his wife has suffered, and mental health.

"When you start listening to people around the community, and ask, 'How are you doing with your headaches?' we're beginning to find that mental health — which is really the outgrowth of chronic pain, or one of the outgrowths — really wasn't being addressed well enough.

"I started asking questions — what can we do, what can BCH do, to establish a presence to deal with these kinds of difficulties? And it was studied and studied, and now finally in the last year and a half the hospital has put together a program to address mental health in the community."

Nobody 'unscathed'

Add Boulder investor and entrepreneur Brad Feld, cofounder of the Foundry Group and Techstars, to the roster of those who are ponying up to make the pavilion a reality. He and wife Amy Batchelor, who sits on the BCH Foundation Board of Trustees, are chairs of the BCH Foundation Mental Health Campaign and have contributed $1 million of their own money.

"There are a lack of options for people who are struggling with different mental health issues, especially ones that are episodic," said Feld, who has been public about his own yearslong struggles with depression, which has sometimes held him in its grips for months at a time.

"Right now, you have two choices: You can go to the emergency room, which is maybe, possibly, the worst place in the world for a person to go who is having an extreme break. And the other place people typically end up is in jail, which is worse than the emergency room.

"So when the BCH Foundation and the hospital started talking about it, it was easy for us to get aggressively involved."

Besser said fundraising toward the Mental Health Endowment is further along than for the Della Cava Pavilion.

"We started with the endowment, because we were waiting for the final plans for the building. But both have resonated," he said. "People understand the need to invest, from a capital point of view. They also get the need to further augment that with the investment through the endowment. It's been a nice pairing."

It's a cause Besser believes all can embrace, regardless of whatever rung on the socioeconomic ladder on which they might reside.

BCH cites statistics gleaned from the World Health Organization, which state that one in four people will have a mental illness in their lifetimes, the most common being depression or anxiety.

Annually, 260,000 Colorado adults and children need treatment for severe mental illnesses including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression and serious emotional disturbances.

"Nobody is really unscathed, as it relates to mental health," Besser said.